Over half of BMTC AC bus fleet remains idle

It has been over six months since the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) reduced fares of the Vajra AC buses to woo passengers and thereby increase the occupancy. But a majority of AC buses still remain off the road as high fuel price and shortage of crew have forced the corporation to “limit” the schedule of these services.

BMTC has a fleet of 860 AC buses, out of which 834 are Volvo buses. Out of the total fleet, 373 AC buses are operational. After the outbreak of pandemic, the demand for AC buses drastically dropped, as people opted to work from home and also used private vehicles to commute. Last December, to increase the ridership, BMTC reduced the ticket fares by 35% and also cut fares of daily and monthly passes.

Officials maintained that the initiative had been well received by the public. But owing to the high cost involved in the purchase of diesel, a majority of the revenue earned was going towards fuel expenses. The operational costs involved in running AC buses is also higher than that of ordinary buses; in addition, crew shortage too forced the corporation to not increase schedules. AC buses give mileage of close to 2 km per litre in city limits, whereas ordinary buses give up to 4 km per litre.

Director (IT) of BMTC Surya Sen A.V. told The Hindu that the corporation was facing a shortage of 5,000 bus crew. “Barring Vayu Vajra services that are operated on airport route, the rest of the buses are running under loss owing to high fuel cost. BMTC is spending over ₹2 crore towards fuel expenses. To bring it down, we are not adding additional AC buses in city limits. Running AC buses involves more operational cost.”

In city limits, Vajra services earns ₹47 per km, whereas Vayu Vajra services operated to Kempegowda International Airport earns ₹55 to ₹60 per km. However, the official said the reduced fare structure for the Vajra AC buses will continue.

In the past, BMTC won praise for introducing AC bus services for city transport. The corporation has invested hundreds of crores for procurement of AC buses. For over two years, the AC bus fleet remained underutilised. Mr. Sen said: “It is a matter of time. When fuel prices drop, BMTC will introduce more AC bus services in city.”

However, commuters have a different take. Abhilash, a regular traveller, said: “BMTC reducing the bus fare applicable for AC buses helped in a big way. People have shifted from taxis to AC buses as they are cheaper. I have seen buses running packed during the peak hours as more people could afford the fare now.” 

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Printable version | Aug 8, 2022 4:44:51 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/over-half-of-bmtc-ac-bus-fleet-remains-idle/article65730980.ece